I’m looking at a picture of a One-Way road sign. And I’m pondering. If a road actually only went one way, would someone really have to post a sign to say so? By definition, if the sign is there, it’s possible to go the other way. So why do we follow the sign? Why do we stick to the One way? Why not try it out? Experiment? Why not go “our” way on the road?
This only occurs to me now, as I’m middle aged and adventure-free. It never really occurred to me when I was learning to drive, or as a young adult exploring options. It didn’t occur to me to ignore “the sign” literally or figuratively. If a sign was there, I obeyed the sign. If I wasn’t supposed to drive that way (or walk that way, or speak that way, or act that way, or live that way), I didn’t do it.
What if I had? How would my life have been different? I probably would have been more memorable. More interesting. The adrenaline would have been pumping more often. Things would have looked different from less-often-viewed angles.
I’m certain that I missed out on a few interesting views. But I’m also certain I stayed safer. And I’m reminded of a quote by Norman Cousins: “Wisdom consists of the anticipation of consequences.” I guess wisdom made me miss some things, but I can’t say I wish I’d been less wise, less able to anticipate consequences. In fact, when I think of myself at critical time periods of my life, anticipation is one thing I was pretty good at. If I choose this, I’d tell myself, I’ll get that. And I was right. Almost all the time. Which makes me predictable and satisfied.
None of which would make me an interesting book character. But seriously? Who wants to be one of those? Conflict oozing everywhere. I’ll pass. I’ll stick with predictable and fulfilled and boring, because boring is a totally underrated personality characteristic, and one that comes from (and leads to) general satisfaction.
The only caveat is this: Think This Way is a sign I’m not so inclined to follow. It’s one of those subtle signs surrounding me every day (wear this, eat this, buy this, choose this). And sometimes it’s laughably unsubtle, and what can you do then but laugh? Think This Way is everywhere, and my job isn’t to tear the signs down; it’s to open eyes to it. My eyes, my kids’ eyes, my students’ eyes. And once the eyes are open, the brains can make the choices about which way to think.